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Posted: 05/16/2017 Posted by:

What do I do if I’m Chosen as the Executor of an Estate?

Categories: Estate Planning & Probate

It might seem that being named to the coveted position as the executor for an estate is a great honor. It is indeed a great honor to be named as the executor for a loved one, friend or acquaintance. It clearly demonstrates the level of trust and respect that the decedent held for the executor. But it is also a position that carries great responsibility, requiring diligence and detailed organization.

What Should You Know About Being an Executor?

  •    Begin the estate probate process almost immediately.  One of the most important aspects of performing the role of the executor is the willingness to begin the process immediately.  As  more time passes following the death, the  financial trail left by the deceased can become progressively harder to trace.  Real Estate, vehicles, and personal property (such as collections and heirlooms) may need to be protected in order to ensure that they are insured and not moved, stolen or damaged during the estate administration period. Any regular occurring obligations should be immediately addressed. All insurance policies should be reviewed at this stage.
  •      Even moderately sized estates require immediate attention to detail. Being an executor may be a task that you will take on for the foreseeable future. Though it won’t be a full time job, it will still take time: however, there are ways to move quickly, and to streamline the process.  Pennsylvania allows a discount to those who act within ninety (90) days of death.
  •      You need to be a self-starter. Most people aren’t aware of the process of being an executor. They need to learn about being an executor, and to be aware of the Court procedural rules which they must follow. Often, they will have to be proactive concerning assets and debts of the decedent.
  •      Emotions may run high. An executor is going to have to deal with a person’s last wishes, and distribute belongings in accordance with the desires of the decedent. This isn’t always an easy task.  Sometimes loved ones of the decedent may have disputes about what they should have received, or what they are entitled to receive. An executor will be required to address these issues.

What Should You Do First?

  •      Get all of the documents together. An executor must first collect all the information and documentation regarding the assets and debts of the decedent.  He or she must assemble documentation – such as the original Last Will, banking and investment history, insurance policies, vehicle titles, keys to home and car, loan documents, etc. It is the executor’s responsibility to find out all they can about the deceased’s assets and debts, and sometimes this information can be well hidden (even if unintentionally).
  •      Make arrangements for dependents (and even pets). Potentially the most important task an executor will need to do early on is make sure that dependents and pets are taken care of. Naturally when it comes to dependents, there are generally fairly strict rules regarding who should be offered the opportunity to provide care. When it comes to pets, it’s often discretionary.
  •      Take care of any family home or real estate.  A home needs to be maintained, insurance coverage needs to continue, and other measures may need to be undertaken to keep the home protected from potential theft or damage.  Real estate could be a significant asset of the estate.
  •      Pay off debts. Debts have to be paid from the estate before the estate funds are actually disbursed to beneficiaries. This is one reason why estate planning is so critical and important; sometimes there is little left of the estate once the debts have been paid.
  •      Disburse the assets. Assets can typically be disbursed once it is certain that debts have been paid. At this point, though, there may be claims made against the estate if the inheritors are not happy with their distributions or others who think they may be entitled to estate assets.

When Should You Enlist the Help of a Professional?

As you can see, carrying out the duties of an executor may involve complicated and numerous issues. But you don’t need to undertake this process alone. Executors are chosen specifically as individuals empowered to make sure that a person’s final wishes are followed. That does not necessarily mean that they themselves must personally, and without assistance, address the details associated with administration of the estate of a decedent. The professionals at Covelli Law Offices, can help the executor throughout the entire estate administration process, and can help ease the burden of many responsibilities placed on an executor during a very difficult time.